The Arlberg including Lech, Zürs, St. Anton, St. Christoph, Stuben, Austria

If you were to question a group of aficionados about the top Austrian ski destination, odds are they would say the Arlberg or mention one of the resorts in this region.

The Arlberg photo, Lech, Zürs, St. Anton, St. Christoph, Stuben, AustriaThis is, after all, where Austria’s skiing took its first faltering steps in 1907 and where legendary ski hall-of-famer Hannes Schneider perfected the Arlberg Method which was brought to the U.S. in the 1930s.

Traditional in style yet modern in service and amenities, this region is what newer resorts in the U.S. try to emulate when they strive for the Austrian “look.” Able to absorb thousands of guests at any one time, the towns of the Arlberg have determinedly retained their village atmospheres—“The only high-rise buildings are the churches,” one local proudly told us—while at the same time providing a totally modern ski experience. And because so many British frequent the area, U.S. visitors will feel very much at home in this still very Austrian destination.

So dense are the skiing opportunities, the area has been broken down in the collective skiing consciousness into the various town-resorts that compose the region. St. Anton, St. Christoph and St. Jakob are normally discussed as a unit spread along the southern side of the Arlberg massif. Lech and Zürs hold down the west-facing side of the mountain and the small village of Stuben sits beside the road at the far western edge of the region where the Lech and St. Anton valleys go their separate ways.

Separated by miles of snow fields, peaks and passes, these towns are all linked by shuttlebuses, lifts and a single Arlberg ski pass to form a skiing wonderland for intermediate and expert skiers. Once remote—and inaccessible after heavy snow—the area is now only a two-and-a-half hour drive from Zürich Airport and less than two hours from Innsbruck.

Strictly speaking, St. Anton, St. Christoph and St. Jakob belong to the Austrian state of Tyrol, while Lech, Zürs and Stuben are part of Vorarlberg. Most skiers, however, skip such technicalities and simply call them the Arlberg slopes.

One of the allures of the region is that, while the individual resorts share the same snow, they all have a totally different flavor. Picking from them, you are sure to find your ideal.

The Arlberg photo including Lech, Zürs, St. Anton, St. Christoph, Stuben, AustriaSt. Anton, the largest, is a bustling and fun resort, and could be considered the most egalitarian of the three with its wide range—from low cost to ritzy—of accommodations and dining. This historic ski town is dramatically different now that the main rail line has been moved and no longer separates the village from the slopes. The station is just outside the village, across the highway, next to the Tennis Center. No more waving to the Orient Express, but also no waiting for trains to pass to get to or from the lifts. New pedestrian areas are opening up and there are now more facilities for visitors, such as a public heated,outdoor swimming pool and an activity center. With “something for everyone,” the town fills up, especially on weekends. Lift lines getting up to the skiing in the morning used to be long, but new lifts have cut the waiting time dramatically. And once up on the mountain, the vastness of the slopes spreads everyone out and lift lines are minimal.

The quieter, St. Anton neighborhood of St. Jakob, just down the valley and comprised mainly of guest houses and restaurants, is now more accessible to skiers thanks to the new Nassereinbahn gondola.

St. Christoph, the highest Arlberg village at 5,400 feet, is a smaller, more exclusive and more expensive version of St. Anton. It’s a good place to get away from it all. New high speed lifts have erased the lines prevalant just a few years ago.

Lech and Zürs. Only a few miles apart at the point where the Flexen Pass ends in a snow wall in winter are Lech and Zürs. Don’t miss Sporthaus Strolz (Zürs) where you can buy custom-foamed boots, designer jeans, home décor and Austrian crafts all under the one roof. Offering a more exclusive feel (Princess Diana often stayed here), Lech is a full-fledged town with more nightlife and shopping than Zürs. On the shoulder of the hill and accessible only by cable car, one of its satellites—Oberlech—is called the “ski resort of the future” by the local tourist board because the only means of transportation are on foot, on skis or on the lifts. Small and contained, lift ticket sales are limited so the slopes never get too busy. Oberlech features hotels and restaurants that are connected by a series of tunnels that keep the mundane deliveries of luggage and supplies completely out of sight of the vacationer. The other, Zug, is a tiny, quaint village hidden away down a tree-lined lane and perfect for families with small children and those seeking peace after 21:00 p.m. It is not a ski-in, ski-out area except for experts. Zürs, only minutes up the valley, is a compact cluster of only 25 buildings, most of them luxury hotels. When celebrities go skiing in Austria, this is where they often stay.

Thanks to their location at the end of the valley and their exclusive air, Lech and Zürs have shorter lift lines and less crowded slopes than the St. Anton side of the Arlberg. From any hotel it’s less than a few minutes’ amble to the nearest lift and from there you can tour the four resorts until you find one that suits the moment’s mood.

Stuben, a tiny and unpretentious village on the fringe of the Arlberg, is proportionately quieter, with more moderately priced hotels. Thanks to the Albona lift, which rises in two stages, the connection with St. Christoph/St. Anton is easy. Because of its altitude it can be colder than the other resorts, but Stuben has an advantage in the spring: its snow is still good when the snow in Lech and Zürs is tapering off.

The Arlberg resorts may be ranked from most to least expensive: Zürs, Lech, St. Christoph, St. Anton and Stuben.

Arlberg Tourist Information:

St. Anton Tourismusverband, A-6580 St. Anton am Arlberg, Austria
Country code: 0043
Telephone prefix: 05446
Telephone: 22690

Fax: 2532

Email: [email protected]

Stuben Tourismusverband, Verkehrsverein, A-6762 Stuben, Austria
Country code: 0043
Telephone prefix: 05582
Telephone: 399

Fax: 3994

Email: [email protected]

Lech and Zurs Tourist Office, A-6764 Lech, Austria
Country code: 0043
Telephone prefix: 05583
Telephone: 2161

Fax: 3155

Email: [email protected]

Zurs Tourism, A-6763 Zürs, Austria
Country code: 0043
Telephone prefix: 05583
Telephone: 2245

Fax: 2982

Note: All prices are in Euros unless otherwise noted.

For more information on skiing and staying in the country of Austria, click the map.

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